For me, the primal attraction of the movies is that they move, taking us on a ride through the world. A single word can instantly capture my attention: for instance, Drive, in which Ryan Gosling executes screeching getaways and equally violent moral U-turns, or The Driver, Walter Hill’s almost abstract thriller. Imagine my vexation when I found out, too late, that Drive, He Said, directed by the young Jack Nicholson, is actually about basketball.
Drive My Car initially appealed because of the Beatles song namechecked in the title – a revved-up summons to sex and stardom, in which a girl admits that she has no car but is pleased to have found herself a driver, prompting the exultant response, ‘Beep beep’m beep beep yeah’. The director, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, adapting a story with the same title by Haruki Murakami, wanted to use the song but couldn’t clear the rights, so he had to settle for some higher-minded chamber music by Beethoven instead. And although Hamaguchi’s film gives a leading role to an ageing and much-travelled Saab 900, it couldn’t be more unlike the high-speed, collision-prone vehicles that run rampant in American films.
The Saab’s owner, played by Hidetoshi Nishijima, is a stern, brooding actor and theatre director whose driving has a meditative calm that seems Zen-like. He glides through traffic, and when he’s involved in a near-collision there are no hydraulic jolts or sonic abrasions; the scene is photographed from high